What better way to get ready to deal with your dysfunctional family over the holiday than by watching a horror movie about a dysfunctional family trapped together over the holidays? What “Krampus” really accomplishes is capturing one family’s love, dislike, and misunderstandings toward one another as they deal with a bad situation. It’s opening montage touches on the perils of commercialism during a time that is supposed to be about giving, not spending. The mother (Toni Collette) gets dragged for trying to make the perfect holiday feast for her extended family. Her hard work never seems to be enough.
When her son Max, a boy on the cusp of being too old to believe in Santa, gets teased by his older cousins for writing Santa Clause a letter he angrily tears it up and tosses it out the window of his bedroom. Unbeknownst to him, this summons Krampus, a legend of European folklore who punishes children who misbehave. He is the opposite of Santa and the spirit of giving.
Max’s family wakes up the next morning to find themselves trapped in a ferocious blizzard. Their neighbors seem to have disappeared. Max’s sister leaves the house to check on her boyfriend blocks away only to become the first victim. When she doesn’t return, her father and uncle go to look for her. They encounter evil elves and dangerously low temperatures so they return home.
It is then that Grandma decides to tell them a story about how when she was a girl she witnessed the same thing. It was Krampus coming to punish them. Soon they are attacked by evil gingerbread men and demonized toys. They must fight for survival, and many of them do not make it.
Where this movie fails is in it’s PG-13 rating. Had it been R, it could have been truly horrifying. Alas, it is not. There is no gore. No blood stained wounds. Only nasty little cookies that bite. They are more cute than terrifying. Because of the films tone when it comes to the dysfunction of the family dynamic, any humor that could have been gained by this cute-not-terrifying things is lost. Perhaps one day we will get an unrated directors cut.
That said, it does succeed more than it fails. It pairs well with films like “Gremlins”. Still in the holiday spirit, just with some horror elements thrown in.